By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Putnam County reopened Tuesday afternoon after a stomach virus swept through the campgrounds last week infecting more than 50 overnight campers. The popular summer camp was hosting over 960 campers that week, when 54 suddenly fell ill with vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains. According to the North Central Health District, after collecting samples and sending them off to the Georgia Public Health laboratory, tests results came back positive for Norovirus as the culprit for the swift outbreak. “Norovirus is a highly infectious illness,” explained Michael Hokanson, a spokesman for the North Central Health District. “Any time people are in close quarters with each other, like campgrounds or college dorms, it can spread very easily from person to person.”
According to Hokanson, the most common symptoms of norovirus is stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea–the exact symptoms of about 50 campers at Rock Eagle last week. “Symptoms of norovirus can lead to dehydration, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids while ill. If symptoms do not disappear within one to three days, contact you doctor or healthcare provider,” stressed Hokanson. As part of the North Central Health District’s investigation into the outbreak, health officials are asking all campers present at Rock Eagle between June 17 through June 21 to complete an online survey about their experience, even if they did not get sick. The survey can be found at NCHD52.org/putnam-gi-survey/.
Leaders of Rock Eagle decided to close down the campgrounds over the weekend to bring in a professional cleaning crew to sanitize all the public facilities before welcoming overnight campers back on Tuesday.
“Everything has been clean and sanitized,” said Cris DeRevere, public relations coordinator for the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. “We are welcoming back campers and moving forward with our normal summer programming.”
State 4-H Leader Arch Smith made the call to close down the camp over the weekend. A private cleaning company sanitized all the cabins, the dining hall, the auditorium, and other shared public spaces. The pool was shocked several times as well with the health department inspecting it and giving the green light to reopen. “Our quick response has allowed us to protect those that will be coming to use the facility,” said Smith.